The Daily Express has been forced to admit a story in which it claimed the English language was dying out in schools was inaccurate.
A complaint was made about the article by Jonathan Portes, of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research which was upheld by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso).
The "special investigation" from July 24th, under the splash headline "311 languages spoken in our schools", also claimed that English-speaking pupils were "becoming a minority in hundreds of classrooms".
The Daily Express Article from 24 July that claimed 311 languages were being spoken in British schools
The article claimed English "is starting to die out" in schools where it is "hardly heard at all" and where "foreign languages have overtaken English."
This was blamed by the tabloid on a "decades-long open door policy on immigration".
But Ipso ruled these statements to be "completely unsupported by the data the newspaper had cited", breaching Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
Ipso also highlighted that this was a "particularly concerning case" as the claims had been "repeated throughout the entire article, including prominently in the front-page sub-headline, and because they were central to the report, on a matter of significant importance".
The tabloid was forced to publish a correction on its front page but you had to look very hard to see it...
(It's that little bit underneath the Downton Abby picture btw.)
The full apology appeared on page 2.
— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) December 15, 2015
The full correction reads...
Following the publication of an article in The Daily Express on 24 July 2015, headlined “311 languages spoken in our schools”, Jonathan Portes complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Express had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaint was upheld, and IPSO required the newspaper to publish this adjudication.
The front page article reported that English “is starting to die out” in schools. It also reported that there are some schools where English-speaking pupils are “becoming a minority”; where English is “hardly heard at all”; and where “foreign languages have overtaken English”. The article said that this was taking place due to an “open door” immigration policy, and referred to Department for Education (DfE) data about specific schools in relation to these claims.
The complainant said that the article’s central claims were inaccurate. It also inaccurately suggested that in some schools, lessons are not taught in English. The data referred to by the newspaper only recorded a pupils’ first language; it did not say that those pupils would be unable to speak English. Further, English is the language of instruction in all maintained schools in England.
The Daily Express accepted that the article may have suggested inaccurately that pupils who did not speak English as a first language could not speak English at all, and that English is not spoken in some classrooms. It said that when reading the article as a whole, the inaccuracies would not have significantly misled readers. It offered to publish a correction both online and in its “Amplifications & Corrections” column on its letters page.
The Complaints Committee found that the article’s claims that English “is starting to die out” in schools and that English was “hardly heard at all” in some schools were completely unsupported by the data the newspaper had cited. These claims distorted the data cited by the newspaper, which did not include any information about the frequency with which English was spoken in schools, by either pupils or teachers.
This was a particularly concerning case because the inaccuracies had been repeated throughout the entire article, including prominently in the front-page sub-headline, and because they were central to the report, on a matter of significant importance. The newspaper’s defence that the article was not misleading when read as a whole did not demonstrate that the newspaper had taken care to report the data accurately. The complaint was upheld as a breach under Clause 1.
The Committee was also concerned by the newspaper’s proposals to correct the inaccuracies in its “Amplifications & Corrections” column on its letters page. There was no information published on this page to signal to readers that this was where the column would normally appear, and the column itself was published infrequently. Given its position in the newspaper, the letters page was not an otherwise sufficiently prominent location for the proposed correction, since the article had appeared prominently on the front page. This aspect of the complaint was also upheld under Clause 1.